This article is not written to be the latest in official Church doctrine. To be honest, I have never heard the sentiments in this article ever taught by anyone but myself. I write this to get you thinking about the timing of the translation of the record of the Jaredites, and how the Lord may have used their record to bless the lives of his people, the Nephites, at a critical time in their development. I leave the truthfulness of my assertions for you to decide.
To understand the change of government from kings to judges we have to look at many things that happened to the Nephites. As you read through the list I present, try to think about how the events might affect each other.
Judges vs. kings in ancient Israel
In 1 Samuel 8:7 the Lord deals with a complaining prophet. Samuel is upset that Israel wants a king when it was the Lord who set up their system of judges.
And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
This statement by the Lord was an indictment against Israel. They wanted to be like all the people around them, and not enjoy the blessings of the Lord as the Lord intended them to have. Samuel was told not to take it personally because it wasn’t a rejection of him, but a rejection of God’s rule over the people they were demanding. As usual, the Lord gives his children what they want.
This rejection of the administration of law by judges, in favor of law by monarchy took place sometime about 1040 B.C. Mosiah is ending his reign about 92 B.C. That makes it about one millennium since any of Israel had judges. Once they rejected the Lord’s system of judges it took 1000 years to get them back. Let’s look at how they were able to get judges once again.
Mosiah had a problem
Mosiah was king over the Nephites. He was old and was about to die. He needed to pass on the rule of his kingdom, but his sons had just left the country to go preach the gospel to the Lamanites. He wouldn’t have let them go, but the Lord told him that letting them go would result in a great many conversions among the Lamanites. As the Lord’s prophet, this left Mosiah with few options. So Mosiah was left with no one on whom to bestow the kingdom.
For the first time in recorded Nephite history he put the matter of who should rule over the people to the people themselves. He asked them to vote on who they wanted to be their next king. Unfortunately, the voice of the people came back saying they wanted Aaron, Mosiah’s son to be king. Aaron was on a 14 year mission to the Lamanites. All of the sons of Mosiah had refused the throne in favor of a mission to the Lamanites.
The solution came in pieces
There wasn’t an easy answer to this problem. But the answer was in front of him all the time, Mosiah just needed to piece it together. Here are a few of the pieces of the puzzle he had to solve.
The Nephites were alone. Because they were alone (except for the Lamanites, and they had kings also), thinking of completely changing the form of government to something else is not something that would come quickly. It wasn’t like they could just look at a neighboring kingdom and copy their way of ruling. They were alone, and had known only kings for many hundreds of years.
The people had just experienced great trauma. Three generations earlier, during Mosiah’s grandfather’s reign, many of the people left Zarahemla to go back to the land of their first inheritance. All communication had been lost. Three generations later two sets of people return to Zarahemla to rejoin the Nephites and Mulekites. The first group to return was the largest. These were the people who had escaped the Lamanites after being in bondage to them because of the wickedness of King Noah. Noah had caused his people to suffer greatly under the bondage of sin, and his son had ruled over the people after Noah was burned alive by his own people while running from the Lamanite army.
Then there was the group of people led by Alma. They were very righteous, and had a tale of woe to tell from the other side of the fence, that of being obedient to the Lord in all things. Between these two groups of people, the whole kingdom wept and were made joyful by their stories of sorrow and rejoicing. Once united the whole kingdom finally united as one to call themselves Nephites, instead of Nephites and Mulekites.
Then there were the 24 gold plates. Limhi, the king of the first group of people, had discovered a set of plates made by the people who had been destroyed (the Jaredites) before they had arrived in the promised land. He couldn’t translate them, so he brought them to Mosiah to translate. The problem was that a prophet could not use the seer stones to translate until commanded to do so. For almost 29 years the people pestered Mosiah about the contents of those plates, but there was nothing he could do about it until he was commanded to translate them.
Behold! Suddenly, at the end of his reign the plates get translated. Why? I believe it was because the contents of the plates of Ether were instrumental in convincing the people that they needed to change their form of government for their own protection.
The Jaredite pattern
The Jaredites were ruled over during their lifetime by Jared and his brother. They refused to be made kings by the people. The brother of Jared told Jared that if the people should ever have a king it would lead to their captivity. At the end of their lives, Jared told his brother to give the people what they wanted, so they made one of their sons the first king over the people. In Ether 7:4–9 we see the brother of Jared’s prophesy come true. We also see a pattern in what could happen currently to the Nephites.
4 And when Corihor was thirty and two years old he rebelled against his father, and went over and dwelt in the land of Nehor; and he begat sons and daughters, and they became exceedingly fair; wherefore Corihor drew away many people after him.
5 And when he had gathered together an army he came up unto the land of Moron where the king dwelt, and took him captive, which brought to pass the saying of the brother of Jared that they would be brought into captivity.
6 Now the land of Moron, where the king dwelt, was near the land which is called Desolation by the Nephites.
7 And it came to pass that Kib dwelt in captivity, and his people under Corihor his son, until he became exceedingly old; nevertheless Kib begat Shule in his old age, while he was yet in captivity.
8 And it came to pass that Shule was angry with his brother; and Shule waxed strong, and became mighty as to the strength of a man; and he was also mighty in judgment.
9 Wherefore, he came to the hill Ephraim, and he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him; and after he had armed them with swords he returned to the city Nehor, and gave battle unto his brother Corihor, by which means he obtained the kingdom and restored it unto his father Kib.
This behavior of Corihor, Kib, and Shule becomes the template for all subsequent generations. King after king puts their relatives into captivity, only to have their descendants raise armies and divide the kingdom in civil war to either free the one in captivity or to gain the kingdom for themselves.
How does this apply?
Mosiah’s sons had all rebelled against him and the church. They were wicked and idolatrous men who deliberately sought to lead people away from the church and to destroy it, if possible. It is true that they repented, but what would happen if any of them returned to their old life and decided they wanted the kingdom that rightly belonged to them? What if a younger brother decided to take the kingdom, but then Aaron, the rightful heir, decided he wanted his throne? That is a guaranteed recipe for civil war and disaster.
Mosiah puts it all together
In Mosiah 29:6–10 Mosiah reasons with the people. Notice that his reasons are not based in anything from Nephite history, but in Jaredite history. I believe one of the reasons the Lord preserved the record of the Jaredites and had them translated at this time was for the very purpose of helping to guide the people back to a system of judges.
6 Now I declare unto you that he to whom the kingdom doth rightly belong has declined, and will not take upon him the kingdom.
7 And now if there should be another appointed in his stead, behold I fear there would rise contentions among you. And who knoweth but what my son, to whom the kingdom doth belong, should turn to be angry and draw away a part of this people after him, which would cause wars and contentions among you, which would be the cause of shedding much blood and perverting the way of the Lord, yea, and destroy the souls of many people.
8 Now I say unto you let us be wise and consider these things, for we have no right to destroy my son, neither should we have any right to destroy another if he should be appointed in his stead.
9 And if my son should turn again to his pride and vain things he would recall the things which he had said, and claim his right to the kingdom, which would cause him and also this people to commit much sin.
10 And now let us be wise and look forward to these things, and do that which will make for the peace of this people.
Mosiah goes on to reason with the people (Mosiah 29:16–21), using their recent experience with the wicked King Noah to remind them how much damage one wicked king can do to a people.
16 Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you.
17 For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!
18 Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people. Behold what great destruction did come upon them; and also because of their iniquities they were brought into bondage.
19 And were it not for the interposition of their all-wise Creator, and this because of their sincere repentance, they must unavoidably remain in bondage until now.
20 But behold, he did deliver them because they did humble themselves before him; and because they cried mightily unto him he did deliver them out of bondage; and thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him.
21 And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood.
It appears that we see the lessons taught through the bad examples of the Jaredite kings, as well as those of the wicked King Noah, were taken to heart by the people of Nephi. In a triumphant verse 38, the people do just the opposite of what ancient Israel did. Anciently they didn’t want to have to take responsibility for their own actions. They wanted to be ruled over by someone who would tell them what to do. They wanted a king. Finally, they are ready to take responsibility for their own choices.
38 Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.
This last chapter of Mosiah is noteworthy and unique. The people’s personal righteousness paved the way for the Lord to give them back a system of government that would allow them the right to make their own choices. As a result they were also individually held accountable before the law and before God for the choices they made.
Did the people feel like Mosiah was trying to dump something on them they didn’t want? Did they feel like they were getting a raw deal? Certainly not. The chapter draws to a conclusion with a tribute of endearment for Mosiah’s love for his people, and their love in return. Mosiah 29:40:
40 And they did wax strong in love towards Mosiah; yea, they did esteem him more than any other man; for they did not look upon him as a tyrant who was seeking for gain, yea, for that lucre which doth corrupt the soul; for he had not exacted riches of them, neither had he delighted in the shedding of blood; but he had established peace in the land, and he had granted unto his people that they should be delivered from all manner of bondage; therefore they did esteem him, yea, exceedingly, beyond measure.